DANCES WITH HEATHENS
I cannot help to be drawn into the notion that some of these people we are reading about are remarkably modern in their perspectives on life, while others are clearly people of a few hundred years ago by their telling. Like we spoke of in class, I wonder if these prejudices can ever be purged from the human condition or just suppressed. Reading that such enlightenment existed, in the case of encounters with the Native American peoples I am doubly drawn to the American Folk themes behind these stories.
De La Vaca’s experience is spectacular example of a famous American folk theme to me. It is in a way married with the sentiments of John Smith’s incident in Jamestown, but has resonance in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leather Stocking Tales, as well as the modern iterations like ‘Dances with Wolves’, ‘The Last Samurai’ or even ‘Avatar’. It is that same story of a sort of Stockholm syndrome that we love to replay in various romantic settings. It produces a journey in which we see a person stuck in a paradigm, triumphantly break out and discover that the ‘truth’ they thought they knew wasn’t in fact true. That life, freedom and beauty exist in other realities besides their own.
Even in Mary Rowlandson’s telling, I can pick up on tones of this theme. Although she clings to her religious high horse for mental stability, her time spent captive clearly got easier as she appreciated that of which she had closed her mind to previously. I particularly love her positioning on food. I almost want to see a parody food network show “Bizzare Foods with Mary Rowlandson”. While her time with the Wampanoag did sound brutal, and I am not justifying the behavior of the Natives, her education with them seemed to enlighten her to certain facets of their culture. Albeit extreme in Mary’s case, this is a glimpse of a modern mind don’t you think?
Rowlandson’s Providence Count = 7 (including mentions of Rhode Island)